Look what happens when you crash the set of Year One: caveman orgies, apple juice is the new urine ... Jack Black and Michael Cera tell all. The movie opens nationwide on June 19.
Of the many comedies hitting theaters this summer, few have more going for it than Year One. In addition to being produced by reigning comedy kingpin Judd Apatow, it boasts a legendary writer/director (Ramis, whose credits include Caddyshack and Groundhog Day) and two of its brightest young actors (School of Rock’s Jack Black and Juno’s Michael Cera). And if that isn’t enough, it’s got guys wearing animal skins and crazy wigs to boot! Seriously, if that doesn’t get you at least a little excited, then you clearly have no soul.
We recently stopped by the Shreveport set of Year One to chat with stars Jack Black and Michael Cera. Leading off first was Black, who mused about caveman orgies, pre-historic toilets and maple syrup sandwiches:
Harold Ramis told us he’s been thinking about this movie for about 30 years. When you met him back in the Orange County days, did he mention it to you?
Jack Black: He kept it hidden from me, a secret. Maybe he planned on doing it with someone else and finally he realized that I was going to be the guy. I just found out about this — I don’t remember when he told me. It wasn’t that long ago. He told me about it, and I was into it, and I read the script and we were making it … I’m trying to only make people’s dream movies. The ones they’ve been thinking about for 30 years.
How do you like the caveman get-up?
JB: This get-up is very comfortable. These shoes won’t stay laced, which is a huge pain in the ass. You’ve gotta go zip. This is how they did it back in the olden days. Back in primitive times, they didn’t have good lacing technology. This is the slave gear when my character is going through tough times in the movie. Strangely, the lower the class, the more comfortable the clothes.
Is the hair consistent throughout the movie or is this your “slave” cut?
JB: This hairdo remains a constant. Always long caveman hair with a caveman beard. Grizzly Adams. I do get finely coifed, though, for my royal orgy scene.
An orgy?!? But isn’t this a PG-13 movie?
JB: Yeah. Can't really show pumpin'. Strictly insinuated. People feeding each other grapes. There are some make-outs and some meaningful eye contact, though.
What's your reaction when you see an orgy scene in a script? Is it something you look forward to?
JB: No, it just kind of sprang up and surprised me. I just woke up one day, and I was like, “I'm in an orgy. Whoa! Hel-lo!” Just another day in the life of biblical times.
Do you think there are other good Biblical stories that need a good comedic retelling?
JB: Yeah, there are a lot of theatrical parts of the Bible. It'd be pretty fun to do some of the Moses stuff that we're not doing in this one because Harold thought it was just too much to break off. 'Cause he could have a movie of his own. And Mel Brooks did some Moses in his History of the World. He had a bit with the 10 Commandments. I always thought it was funny when Moses went up on the hill and came down with some stones that were carved into it and said, "These are from the Lord!" And no one said, "Well, yeah, but who else was there when you saw him?" And he'd just say, "No! It was just me and the Lord!" Seems kind of convenient and funny that no one ever questioned that. It'd be fun to do Noah's Ark, too. But he was recently featured in Evan Almighty.
They often put you in with a straight man in your films. How does Michael Cera compare to others you've worked with?
JB: Michael is ... a very special young man. He's very advanced, and there's very little effort on his part. Which is strange and foreign to me. Mr. Effort, Mr. Squeezie, Mr. Sweat — I think we do make a very delicious sandwich. I provide the salty sweat, he provides the sweet Maple syrup.
That sounds like a terrible sandwich!
JB: OK, let me change it. I provide the delicious salty peanut butter. And he provides the jam. You've never tried a salty, sweaty, maple syrup sandwich, obviously. Try ‘em before you s--t on them like that, Mr. Fancy Sandwich.
Your pal Kyle Gass from Tenacious D is in the movie, right?
JB: He's in the movie too, yeah. He plays the palace eunuch. And it was my idea that we should get him to play the character with no balls just to get back at him for all the asshole-y things he's done to me.
Do you appear in a scene together?
JB: Just for a moment as I pass him by, but it is mostly him and Michael.
What is it like working with Harold Ramis after playing him in Be Kind Rewind?
JB: It is not that weird. It should be weirder. He gave us permission to use Ghostbusters, which was very kind of him. There is a contest going on to do your own Sweded film, and you give the tape to the movie theater or something and you win prizes or something. Me and Harold should remake one of his or my old movies together and send it in and try to win these prizes. It could be a really big prize. Groundhog Day with Jack Black. School of Rock starring Harold Ramis.
Is there room for a Year Two?
JB: We would have to skip to like the year 2000. That would be lame. You can’t skip to 2000. The Year Two? Not enough happened in year two. But Year One: Part Two? Yeah, we'd barely scratched the surface of the Biblical source material.
Have you improv’d lines that you realized you couldn't say because they referenced something that didn’t exist back then?
JB: Oh God, every day. Yesterday, what did I say? We're forbidden, while we're here in Sodom, to go into this room. It's called the "Holiest of Holies," where the gods are in the room, supposedly, and if you go in there, you'll be totally vaporized unless you're the High Priest. He's the only one allowed to go in there and talk to the gods. And I went in there, and the King and the Queen were there, and I was busted, and I said, "Oh, I was just looking, for the crapper." But you're not allowed to say crapper, because the crapper doesn’t exist. Of course, the crapper is based on Sir Thomas Crapper, inventor of the first toilet. So we changed it to, "I was looking for the grunt hole." Sometimes it is OK, when you set up the rule … I mean, English wasn’t invented back then, so every word you say is breaking the rule — but [you] try to keep it back in that time period. Once in awhile, you zing in a new thing, and it’s extra funny so it’s about picking the places you get modern. Grunt holes are not modern. Grunt holes they’ve had since the beginning of time.
We know you're a gamer. What've you been playing lately?
JB: I’m against video games. I don’t think they are good for the brains of our youth, but sometimes I will go ahead and experiment with them just to see what needs to be destroyed. Lately, I've been playing a lot of “Guitar Hero III.” I'm so mad at “Guitar Hero III” right now because I made it all the way to Tom Morello before you can go on to other famous guitar players. Tom Morello on HARD level. Which is f--king impossible. It's infuriating, because I've played it like 30 times in a row. You get sick of the song, and you just want to get to the rest of the Hard level, and you can't do it until you pass Tom Morello. So then I got sick of it, and I brought in Michael — who is a wunderkind, don't know if you knew. He's like a savant. He hits every note, and he’s lightening fast, but even he couldn't get past him. With me in his ear yelling "NOW use the weapon!" The two of us together, he did it five times in a row and he fought valiantly. Tom Morello on hard — he’s unstoppable.
For part two of our Year One set visit, we sat down with Jack Black's caveman counterpart, Michael Cera. The rising star of Juno and Superbad talked about the perils of gold body paint, the drawbacks of apple juice as a urine substitute, and why you won't see him dressed in drag on the big screen anytime soon.
We heard you were painted gold for one of your scenes. What was that like?
Michael Cera: It’s insane. My whole body is painted gold. It was really uncomfortable and miserable, and washing it off is just awful.
And why exactly were you painted in gold?
MC: Kyle Gass paints me gold in the movie. He plays a eunuch, and he paints me gold to be a gold statue.
Wasn’t it hard for your skin to breathe?
MC: Yeah, for a few days after that, my skin was really just in pain, especially under my armpits. They put this gold powder on which is kind of this metal base. So it was really sharp. Wiping it off was like sandpaper. It was just crazy. And then your armpits all day are … on fire for like a week after. I couldn’t lift my arm higher than this or it was excruciating.
Compare Jack Black’s acting style to say Jonah Hill’s. How are they similar or different?
MC: Different approaches I guess. I think Jack really studies the script and really knows it. If a new scene comes up every day, I think he really just knows it. I think he’s spent time with the script whereas Jonah plans on kind of working on his feet, his toes. I think that’s kind of a major difference.
Do you like dressing up with crazy wigs?
MC: Yeah, it’s fun. This isn’t my main wig. In the second half of the movie, they cut my hair, but I normally have a long wig. It was custom-made and looks just like my hairline. It’s really insane. It’s weird when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and forget you’re wearing it.
Is there a lot of physical humor in this movie?
MC: Kind of. Would you call body paint physical humor? There’s not too much falling down. There is a cougar that attacks us. Jack falls down a few times. I fall down a cliff. So, yeah, it’s all funny, I guess.
We heard they had you upside-down for a torture scene. How long were you up there?
MC: It would only be for a minute at a time. They would take me down in between each take, but all day, I would be upside down. And then at the end, I pee, so I had apple juice running down my face. It kept getting in my noise and then in my eyes. They said, “What do you want the fake pee to be?” And I said apple juice. It stings your eyes. I should have gone with just water.
What was your first reaction when you arrived at this giant set?
MC: It was insane. It’s amazing. We shot the first few weeks in a different location while this was still being built, and then this is mind-blowing. I have never worked on anything so elaborate or big or massive.
Growing up, were any of the guys in this movie your comedy heroes?
MC: Well, Ghostbusters is kind of the reason I wanted to be an actor. When I was four, I really liked Ghostbusters and wanted to act from a young age because of that. So, it’s great working with David Cross, who also loves Ghostbusters. It was really amazing getting to listen to Harold old day.
Are you still in touch with Christopher Mintz-Plasse? How has he changed since the Superbad thing took off?
MC: I think his life has changed. He probably gets stuff yelled at him — in a good way, not in a malicious way, I think. It’s got to be strange. Like his face is on shirts and stuff. I remember when we were doing the press tour around the country before the movie even came out, [and] there were people showing up with McLovin’ shirts. Which was crazy — the movie wasn’t going to be released for two months.
What else is coming up? What’s next after this?
MC: I’m not sure. I think I’m supposed to do this movie — hopefully, if it all comes together — called Youth in Revolt in April or May. I think I will, hopefully. It’s about kids whose parents are divorced. [My] falls in love with the girl. He’s like 14. He’s trying to be with her, and she lives in a different city. It’s a very epic. The book is really funny.
There are some pretty risqué scenes in the novel upon which Youth in Revolt is based. Will they make it into the movie?
MC: I’m not sure if any of that will be in there. There is a lot of stuff you read in a book, and then you think of it in a movie [and] it’s like, “Ugh, that might be really awkward in a theater.” Basically, the last third of the movie, he’s disguised as a woman going to school. In the book, you’re reading it, and it’s fine, but then you think about it, and you’re like, ‘If I’m just wearing a dress and a wig, people are totally gonna know it’s me. Like people who know me would know it’s me. Unless I had Mrs. Doubtfire makeup and prosthetics and s--t, are they going to believe this?’ But the book is amazing.
Reporting by Emily Christianson